The network structure of schema modes

George Aalbers, Tiarah Engels, Jonas M. B. Haslbeck, Denny Borsboom, Arnoud Arntz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


A fundamental question in psychotherapy is whether interventions should target client problems (i.e., problem-focused approaches) or client strengths (i.e., strength-focused approaches). In this study, we first propose to address this question from a network perspective on schema modes (i.e., healthy or dysfunctional patterns of co-occurring emotions, cognitions, and behaviours). From this perspective, schema modes mutually influence each other (e.g., healthy modes reduce dysfunctional modes). Recent evidence suggests that changes in modes that are strongly associated to other modes (i.e., central modes) could be associated with greater treatment effects. We therefore suggest research should investigate the relative centrality of healthy and dysfunctional modes. To make an exploratory start, we investigated the cross-sectional network structure of schema modes in a clinical (comprising individuals diagnosed with paranoid, narcissistic, histrionic, and Cluster C personality disorders) and non-clinical sample. Results showed that, in both samples, the Healthy Adult was significantly less central than several dysfunctional modes (e.g., Undisciplined Child and Abandoned and Abused Child). Although our study cannot draw causal conclusions, this finding could suggest that weakening dysfunctional modes (compared to strengthening the Healthy Adult) might be more effective in decreasing other dysfunctional modes. Our study further indicates that several schema modes are negatively associated, which could suggest that decreasing one might increase another. Finally, the Healthy Adult was among the modes that most strongly discriminated between clinical and non-clinical individuals. Longitudinal and experimental research into the network structure of schema modes is required to further clarify the relative influence of schema modes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1065-1078
Number of pages14
JournalClinical Psychology & Psychotherapy
Issue number5
Early online date11 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2021


  • Healthy Adult mode
  • network analysis
  • problem-focused therapy
  • schema modes
  • strength-focused therapy


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